Tuesday 2 April 2024

From a muddy mangrove to an ex-slaughterhouse: a promenade through Macau

I'm in Macau preparing a performance that I'll film tomorrow. It's a tour in the sense that it is a promenade style of show that travels through the city. The original inspiration was land reclamation, of which Macau has a great deal. The video below shows how Macau has evolved from being three small islands to two substantially larger ones.

The performance will trace a path first over the flat reclaimed land and then up onto the higher ground. It taps into the fear of flooding, something that Macau knows about only too well. The city experienced devastating typhoon flooding in 2017 that left much of the city inundated. That scenario looks only too likely to return with greater frequency now that our global weather patterns are going rogue

The performance is not simply the tracing of this path. I'll be emerging from the mud and sands with a basic office in tow: desk, chair, computer, screen etc. Caked in mud I'll push it through the city and make my way to Ox Warehouse, the contemporary art gallery that is supporting this. It's going to be another hot day, 29 degrees, and the route will probably take over an hour. Even if everything goes right, which is a big assumption, it will be a tough tour. 

It's already looking less straightforward as the gate onto the beach where I start has now been sealed; it was previously unlocked. I'll have to pass everything over a fence and climb over it myself, too. We have permission to do this performance from the local government, so hopefully it won't get stopped, but it is hard to really predict how it will all turn out. That's half the fun.

The locking of the gate may be a blessing in disguise. It means I will begin in the sandy mud at the bottom of these steps, beside the remains of a mangrove forest. The vast majority of it has been uprooted and covered in rocks to make way for casinos, but a small pocket of it hangs on. Since I learned that these rare natural environments sequester up to eight times more carbon than regular forests, I have a special regard for them. They are forests growing out of the coastal mud flats; dense, liminal, teaming with life, they are one of nature's enigmatic zones that holds hidden wonder. I'll be bringing some of that with me through the polished streets tomorrow, a climate refugee from the future on his way to higher ground.

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